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Movie Review: Battle: Los Angeles
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Battle LABattle: Los Angeles
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Staring Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Ne-Yo, Ramon Rodriguez
Rated PG-13
Release date: March 11, 2011

As Battle: Los Angeles begins, we meet Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart). He is an older soldier, and at the start of the movie, decides that his best years are behind him, and chooses to retire. As fate would have it, he has one last mission, and he is assigned to a group of Marines led by a young Lieutenant (Ramon Rodriguez). Unfortunately, that last mission involves aliens invading and the possible end of mankind. The rest of the movie deals with the Marines trying to rescue some civilians while fighting the alien menace.

Battle: Los Angeles tries to be a combination of Black Hawk Down and District 9, but unfortunately, it never reaches the levels of either. To be fair, I don’t think it was the creator’s goal to make as deep a movie as those two are. It seems like they just wanted to make a cool alien invasion movie, and in that they succeeded. The movie has a pretty fast pace, and never slows down for too long, meaning that I didn’t ever lose interest in what was going on. The CGI is decent enough; director Jonathan Liebesman and his team chose to use a lot of smoke to obscure the effects a little. You very rarely get a good look at the aliens, and they’re never really established as a threat, other than having superior firepower, but even then, the aliens can be taken down with modern human weaponry.

If I was nit-picking, I would say that I wish they had spent some more time explaining the aliens’ goals (they mention in passing that they have come for our water), but the movie isn’t about the aliens; it’s about the humans, and more specifically about Sgt. Nantz. Aaron Eckhart leads a solid cast, and turns in a good performance. He feels like he would be someone I would want to lead me into battle against the alien hordes. More importantly, the script sometimes gets very flag-wavy and a little cheesy in its dialog, but Eckhart is able to make it sound convincing enough. There are a couple of big speeches he has to pull off, and for the most part, he makes it work. The rest of the cast is filled with a lot of younger actors, but they aren’t given that much to do, other than occasionally die.

I had a big problem with the first action scene in the movie, as it is shot in a quasi-documentary style, but they use the worst kind of shaky camera, and it ends up being a mess. I couldn’t tell what was going on, I never got a good look at the aliens, and I was feeling a little queasy by the end of it. It never put me into the action the way a good documentary-style action scene should, instead it put me out of the film for a while. Fortunately, the shaky camera effect is toned down as the movie goes on, and I got a much better feel for the action as it went on. The action towards the middle and the end works well, and it’s just much easier to follow, which means that you can focus more on the characters, which makes the movie better.

Once the camera settles down, what we get is a fairly standard invasion movie, with some familiar characters, familiar situations, and a familiar ending. The ending leaves a lot of space for a sequel, and I could see a kind of franchise being made with this. Who knows, maybe next time we see Battle: Miami, with a different group of soldiers fighting the same aliens but from a different perspective. There is room to expand on the idea, and I’m curious to see where they go with it.

There’s nothing patently wrong with Battle: Los Angeles, but it’s not the greatest thing I’ve ever seen either. It’s not such a great movie that I would say you have to rush out and see it, but if you’ve got time to go to a matinee, there are worse ways to spend a couple of hours. Battle: Los Angeles ends up being a decent action movie, but doesn’t rise above that and become something more, so I am giving it a 3 out of 5. Remember, always look to the skies.

4 Comments »

  1. I feel the same way. My friend and I left feeling like the movie could have been about ANY battle in ANY city. While it was the most “realistic” alien invasion film, I found myself missing the epic scenes of spaceships and the random likeable characters that I was excited to be avoiding while going in. Just too much chaos to enjoy, too little specticle to get me to own or see again… but yet I certainly didn’t hate it…

    Comment by Pete — March 18, 2011 @ 12:28 pm

  2. I liked it a lot and would go see a sequel. It really does have some legs as a franchise — much more than ID4. I agree that the shaky cam had me nervous and nauseous, but it did end rather quickly. I’m glad, because I didn’t want to see another Cloverfield with people throwing up in theaters. The movie is solid, well acted and has a lot of fresh faces in it. The only person that’s getting typecast is Michelle Rodriguez, because she is quickly becoming the standard Vasquez character in action films. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it’s starting to get noticed. If you haven’t seen the film, give it a shot. It was the number one movie last week for a reason.

    Comment by Steve — March 18, 2011 @ 9:09 pm

  3. I was very disappointed after watching the film. I felt very excited after watching the trailer when it was first released,but I felt like the tone that was conveyed in the trailer versus what the actual movie was were two very different things. I felt that the first half of the movie was decent (i.e. the beginning of the invasion, news coverage, and a realistic look to the carnage in the city). There were some tired themes that have been covered before, but I was able to get past it. A little over the half way mark though the movie lost me. The cheese was just splattered all over the place. It became a full blown wannabe Michael Bay movie (and why would you want to be that?). I don’t want to ruin it, but the very last line in the movie had my friend and I laughing out loud. This is a rental at best case. Again, after watching the trailer I was really optimistic that this would be an Independence Day type film that was more realistic in it’s portrayal. More in the District 9 vein of films. Not even close.

    Comment by Cvanderen — March 19, 2011 @ 4:26 pm

  4. im torn on whether to see this or not.

    Comment by john — March 19, 2011 @ 4:42 pm

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